Illinois prosecutor vows challenge to new gun ban as governor fumes over sheriffs' non-enforcement pledge

Illinois prosecutor vows challenge to new gun ban as governor fumes over sheriffs' non-enforcement pledge
(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Things are getting very interesting in Illinois after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a massive gun and magazine ban bill into law on Tuesday night. As we first reported on Wednesday, more than a dozen county sheriffs almost immediately vowed not to arrest anyone solely for violating the new bans. Now that number has grown to at least 50 counties where sheriffs have explicitly stated they will not be arresting anyone for possessing a “large capacity” magazine or a non-registered “assault weapon” as defined in the new law.

Several prosecutors in Illinois have been weighing in as well; some in conjunction with the sheriff of their county while others have released stand-alone statements. Union County State’s Attorney Tyler Tripp sounded off with a statement declaring HB 5471 a “direct attack on our right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution”, and while he didn’t explicitly state he wouldn’t be charging anyone with violations of the law he certainly hinted at that outcome, telling residents that “Union County is a community steeped in the traditions of gun ownership for hunting, sporting, collecting, and self-defense” and that he’s “committed to preserving those values for the good and deserving people of the county and beyond.”

One way to do that? A lawsuit, and Tripp says he’s hoping to get his fellow prosecutors to band together to bring down the ban through a legal challenge.

“Recently, I along with a class of other State’s Attorneys successfully challenged and put a hold on the implementation of the SAFE-T Act which sought to flood our communities with dangerous criminals. HB 5471 will operate to reduce our right to defend our lives and those that we love against violent criminals. The lack of foresight as to how these two sets of laws would compromise public safety in our community is unacceptable. There are many ways to address crime and gun violence in this state. These recent laws championed by the controlling majority are not the proper means to correct issues with criminal justice and gun violence as they fail to consider the impact on communities outside of major metropolitan areas.

“I am currently working with other State’s Attorneys to organize and challenge this effort to erode our constitutional rights. I will pursue any and all reasonable measures under the law to protect our community from those who would take our absolute right to keep and bear arms,” the prosecutor concluded, adding that it his duty and oath to not only support the Constitution (including the Second Amendment), but to “give a voice to the good people of Union County in speaking out against those who fail to consider and protect us.”

The widespread refusal to enforce these unconstitutional provisions has left Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker sputtering about removing sheriffs if they don’t strictly enforce the new bans.

Gov. JB Pritzker warned that law enforcement “will in fact do their job” on enforcing Illinois’ new gun ban or else they “won’t be in their job” as some sheriffs have announced they will not enforce it.

Some counties across the state said they will not enforce a gun ban and will not comply with a looming registry.

Pritzker said Illinois State Police will be responsible for enforcement.

“As are all law enforcement all across our state and they will in fact do their job or they won’t be in their job,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker contends the sheriffs are violating their oath of office by not enforcing the new prohibitions, conveniently ignoring the fact that both police and prosecutors have discretion in deciding on arrests and/or prosecutions. I don’t remember him castigating Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx when she announced her office wouldn’t be prosecuting low-level drug arrests back in 2020, and while he took steps to distance himself from his fellow Democrat during his re-election campaign, he’s never accused of her of violating her oath of office by using prosecutorial discretion.

I don’t know where Pritzker gets the idea he even has the power to remove sheriffs in the first place. Under Illinois law sheriffs can’t formally assume their position until their commission has been signed by the governor, but Article 5, Section 10 of the Illinois constitution states that the governor “may remove for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office any officer who may be appointed by the governor.” Since sheriffs are an elected position, I don’t think that Pritzker has the power or authority to remove ones he deems non-compliant from their office, but I’m sure there are several sheriffs who’d love to see him try.

Pritzker was able to get his gun and magazine ban on the books, but he’s facing an impossible task in trying to have these laws strictly enforced throughout the state… and that’s before the courts have had a chance to weigh in. As it turns out, there are lots of Illinois residents who take their Second Amendment rights seriously, and thankfully they have at least some elected officials who feel the same way.